On standards, vendor lock-in, and how technology advances

The Internet has become such a ubiquitous part of our daily lives that it's hard to imagine what life would be like without it. From a technology perspective it's a truly incredible achievement: hardware and software from thousands of companies working together to form a single, global communication network. Open standards and protocols have created a thriving ecosystem of PCs, phones, tablets, routers, and all the underlying network devices that all work together seamlessly. It's a shining example of the power of interoperability.

Physical security is not.

Too often are people sold physical security systems without realizing that they're now effectively married to that specific manufacturer and that specific integrator/installer. Many companies intentionally make it difficult and expensive to use their hardware or software with others' hardware and software. Other times you just have the same problem being solved in different, incompatible ways by different companies. Regardless of the cause, the result is incompatibility. If the integrator or manufacturer go out of business or are purchased, or even if that particular product line is discontinued, you can be left in a situation of having no means of repairing or upgrading the system. If you want to add more devices or capabilities, you're limited to a small portion of what's available. If a device fails, you have to tear the whole system out and start over. Proprietary alarm keypads, serial devices, wireless protocols, card reader protocols, proximity card formats, and more still plague the industry to this day, hindering innovation and emptying users' wallets.

While proprietary systems are great for the companies that manufacturer and install them, they are harmful to end-users, and to the industry as a whole. So, before you make a purchasing decision on a physical security system, ask the questions:

  1. Is this system built on established, open protocols and standards? Or, in instances where such standards just haven't been developed yet, is there a published, freely-available API for integration with this system?
  2. Can I buy software or hardware from another manufacturer and have it work with this system?
  3. Can I go to another integrator and have them maintain, repair, and upgrade this system?

Or feel free to give us a call and tap into our expertise, because if the answer to any of those questions is "no", you should immediately reconsider, and we'd be happy to point you towards manufacturers, and even integrators, who prioritize you over their bottom line.